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Filling station



A filling station, fueling station, gas station, service station or petrol station is a facility which sells fuel and lubricants for motor vehicles. The most common fuels sold are gasoline (petrol) or diesel fuel.

Some stations carry specialty fuels, such as liquified petroleum gas (LPG), compressed natural gas (CNG), hydrogen, biodiesel, ethanol, or kerosene. In recent times, filling stations have also begun to sell butane and have added shops to their primary business; convenience stores are now a familiar sight alongside pumps.

The term "gas station" is mostly used in the Western Hemisphere, including the United States and Canada, where the fuel is known as "gasoline" or "gas". In some regions of Canada, the term "gas bar" is also frequently used. Elsewhere in the English-speaking world, the form "petrol station" or "petrol pump" are used. In the United Kingdom the single noun garage is still commonly used, even though the petrol station may have no service/maintenance facilities which would justify this description. Similarly, in Australia, the term service station ("servo") describes any petrol station. In Japanese English, it is called a "gasoline stand". In Indian English, it's called a petrol pump or a petrol bunk. In some regions of America, filling stations usually have a mechanic on duty, but this is uncommon in other parts of the world.


Number of petrol stations worldwide

As of 2007, there are thought to be fewer than 10,000 petrol stations in the U.K. [1]

The USA has perhaps 200,000 gas stations [2]

In Canada, the number is on the decline to about 14,000. [3]

History of filling stations in the United States

  The first places that sold gasoline were pharmacies, as a side business. In fact, the first petrol station was the city pharmacy in Wiesloch, where Bertha Benz refilled the tank of the first automobile on its maiden voyage from Mannheim to Pforzheim.[citation needed] The increase in automobile ownership after Henry Ford started to sell automobiles that the middle class could afford resulted in a greater demand for filling stations. The world's first purpose built gas station was constructed in St. Louis, Missouri in 1905 at 412 S. Theresa Avenue.[4] The second gas station was constructed in 1907 by Standard Oil of California (now Chevron) in Seattle, Washington. Reighard's gas station in Altoona, Pennsylvania claims that it dates from 1909 and is the oldest existing gas station in the United States. Early on, they were known to motorists as "filling stations". Standard Oil began erecting roadside signs of their logo to advertise their filling stations.

Types of filling stations in the United States and Canada

There are generally two types of filling stations in the US: premium and discount brands.

Premium brands

Filling stations with premium brands sell well-recognized and often international brands of gasoline, including Exxon and its Esso brand, Citgo, Chevron, Mobil, Shell, Sinclair, BP, Valero and Texaco. Non-international premium brands include Petrobras, Petro-Canada, and Pemex. Premium brand stations accept credit cards, often issue their own company cards (a.k.a. fuel cards) and may charge higher prices. These stations have numerous locations and more available pumps.[citation needed] They tend to be more modern and cleaner and tend to have brighter lighting.[citation needed] For ease and convenience, many of them have fully automated pay-at-the-pump facilities. Premium gas stations tend to be highly visible from highway and freeway exits, utilizing tall signs to display their brand logos.[citation needed]

Discount brands

Discount brands are often smaller, regional chains or independent stations, offering lower prices on gasoline. Most purchase wholesale gasoline from independent suppliers or from the major petroleum companies. In some cases, discount brands accept cash only; others may accept credit cards. Often the customer must walk inside the store or up to the window to pay, and obtain a receipt later. Discount stations tend to have few locations and, in some cases, use outdated technology (e.g., non-digital readouts on pumps). Additionally, these discount gas stations are sometimes located well away from highway and freeway exits; many are tucked away in obscure commercial and residential neighborhoods. An exception to these trends is ARCO (a division of BP), which maintains a combination of modern and outdated stations, and Valero, which features modern stations.

Examples of discount gas station chains in the USA are Valero, Rotten Robbie, and USA Gasoline. Lower-priced gas stations are also found at some supermarkets (Albertsons, Kroger, Safeway, Vons, Meijer, Loblaws/independent grocer's/Real Canadian Superstore (Canada) and Giant Eagle), convenience stores (7-Eleven and Cumberland Farms), discount stores (Wal-Mart) and warehouse clubs (Costco, Sam's Club, and BJ's). At some stations (such as Vons, Wal-Mart, Costco, BJ's, or Sam's Club), consumers are required to hold a special membership card in order to receive the discounted price. Some convenience stores, such as 7-Eleven and Circle K, have co-branded their stations with one of the premium brands.

Filling stations outside the United States/Canada


Some countries have only one brand of petrol station. In Mexico, where the oil industry is state-owned and prices are regulated, the country's main operator of petrol stations is called Pemex. In Malaysia, Shell is the dominant player by number of stations with government owned Petronas coming in second; the operator is also moving overseas with the aim of becoming a multinational brand. Most multinational brands such as ExxonMobil and Shell use their brand worldwide, except Chevron which uses its inherited brand Caltex in Asia Pacific, Australia, and Africa, and its Texaco brand in Europe and Latin America. In Brazil, the main operator is Petrobras but Esso, Ipiranga, Texaco and Shell are also big. In Britain many companies supply petrol, the most major being BP and Shell, plus several supermarket filling stations such as ASDA and Tesco. Indian Oil operates approx 15000 Petrol Stations in India.

Iceland is the only nation in the world that has filling stations dispensing hydrogen fuel for cars powered by fuel cells. It is also the only nation capable of producing hydrogen in adequate quantities at reasonable cost, because Iceland's high level of volcanic activity gives it plentiful geothermal energy.

Features of gas stations in the United States/Canada

Payment methods

In small towns and rural areas, gas stations sometimes allow customers to pump gas first and pay afterwards. Due to the higher incidence of crime in large urban areas (especially drive-offs), customers must generally pay before pumping fuel.

Modern gas stations have pay-at-the-pump capabilities — in most cases credit, debit, ATM cards and fuel cards are accepted. At some stations, cash is also taken at the pump, although customers must collect their change at a cashier window which is often bullet-proof. Occasionally a station will have a pay-at-the-pump-only period per day, when attendants are not present, often at night, and some stations are pay-at-the-pump-only 24 hours a day.

Full service vs. self service

  Traditionally most filling stations in the United States have offered a choice between full service — in which an attendant operates the pumps, often wipes the windshield, and sometimes checks the vehicle's oil level and tire pressure, then collects payment (and perhaps a small tip) — and self service, in which the customer pumps the gas. Until the 1970s, full service was the norm, and self service was rare.

Today, few stations advertise full service, and those that do usually only provide mini service unless a manager is involved. However, full service stations are more common in wealthy and upscale areas. The cost of full service is usually assessed as a fixed amount per gallon.

Minimum service vs. full service

  All stations in New Jersey and Oregon, however, are mini service; attendants are required to pump gas because customers are barred by statutes in both states from pumping their own gas. Both states prohibited self service in the 1940s due to fears that customers would handle gasoline improperly. Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality has also ordered a ban on self-service gasoline due to inexperienced pumpers being a significant source of groundwater and air pollution. Oregon's state fire marshal has also ordered a ban on self-service gasoline. Today, these states enforce the law because of the rapid increase of drive-offs[citation needed], where people fill up their car and drive away without paying for gas. In 1982, Oregon voters rejected a ballot measure sponsored by the service station owners, which would have legalized self-service gas.

There is a widespread belief that mini-serve is more expensive. However, a comparison between gas prices in Portland, Oregon and its suburb of Vancouver, Washington show prices at mini-serve stations in Oregon are on average 3 to 10 cents cheaper than their self-service counterparts in Washington, suggesting the net effect of adding attendants to the price may be small or non-existent. This comparison may be skewed by the difference in state gasoline taxes between Oregon and Washington; Washington's excise tax on gasoline is 36 cents per gallon, while Oregon's tax is only 27 cents per gallon.[1] Likewise, New Jersey almost always has cheaper gas than its neighbors New York and Pennsylvania; such a difference could be explained by the presence of six refineries that produce 50,000 barrels per day or more of refined petroleum products, or more likely the state's low gas tax, the third lowest in the country behind Alaska and Georgia, at just 14.50 cents per gallon.[2]

The constitutionality of the self-service bans has been disputed. The Oregon statute was brought into court in 1989 by ARCO, and the New Jersey statute was challenged in court in 1950 by a small independent service station, Rein Motors. Both failed. In addition, throughout the rest of the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that the equivalent of "mini-serve" be provided to any individual displaying a disabled parking placard.

In both New Jersey and Oregon, it is legal for customers to pump their own diesel (although not every station permits diesel customers to do so; truck stops typically do). The intent of the Oregon Law is that diesel is not as flammable, and therefore poses less of a hazard to Oregon citizens.[citation needed]

Mini-serve is refer to as "Self Serve" in Canada.

Other goods and services commonly available

Many gas stations also have convenience stores which sell food, beverages, cigarettes, lottery tickets, motor oil, and sometimes auto parts. Prices for these and other items tend to be higher at convenience stores than they would be at a supermarket or discount store.

In some U.S. states, beer, wine, and liquor are sold in gas stations, though this practice varies according to state law (see Alcohol laws of the United States by state). Nevada allows the sale of beer, wine, liquor, and the operation of slot and video poker machines at gas stations 24/7. Missouri also allows the sale of beer, wine, and liquor without limitation at gas stations (see Alcohol laws of Missouri).

Many gas stations also provide squeegees, towels, and toilet facilities for customer use, but a large number of discount gas stations do not provide these amenities. Many gas stations have air compressors with tire gauges and water machines. Some machines are free of charge, while others charge a small fee to use (usually around 50 cents). In many states of the U.S., state law requires that paying customers must be provided with free air compressor service. In most cases, a token provided by the attendant is used in lieu of coins. As late as the 1960s, many service stations in the U.S. provided free maps to customers.

Some gas stations are equipped with car washes. Car washes are sometimes offered free of charge or at a discounted price with a certain amount of gas purchased. Conversely, some car washes operate gas stations to supplement their businesses.

There are a number of gas stations with a fast food outlet inside, such as McDonald's, Jack in the Box, Pizza Hut, Sbarro, Subway, Dunkin Donuts, Taco Bell, or Wendy's. These are usually "express" versions with limited seating and limited menus, though some may be regular-sized and have spacious seating. In Canada, it is common to find a small Tim Hortons outlet inside gas stations.

Price at the pump

Gasoline prices in North America


The gasoline market in North America is very competitive. Nearly all filling stations in North America advertise their often-changing prices on large signs outside the stations. Some locations have laws requiring such signage.

In the United States and Canada, federal, state/provincial and local sales taxes are usually included in the price, although Petro Canada has started to provide a complete tax breakdown on purchase receipts. Gas taxes are often intended to fund transportation projects such as the maintenance of existing roads and construction of new ones.

In the United States, the states of California and Hawaii typically have the highest gasoline prices, while the lowest prices can be found in oil producing states like Oklahoma and Texas. In Canada, prices are typically highest in the provinces of British Columbia and Quebec, and the lowest in the oil-producing province of Alberta. The provinces of Prince Edward Island (PEI), Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia have instituted gasoline price regulation. At times, PEI has had the lowest cost of gas in the country but studies have shown that this is due to the provincial sales tax not included in the price.

Price regulation in Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia is intended to protect small rural gas stations from low profit margins due to low volume.

Individual gas stations in the United States have little if any control over gasoline prices. The wholesale price of gasoline is determined according to area by oil companies which supply the gasoline, and their prices are largely determined by the world markets for oil. Individual gas stations are unlikely to sell gasoline at a loss, and the margin—typically between 7 and 11 cents a gallon—that they make from gasoline sales is limited by the fact that the market is highly competitive. A gas station which charges significantly more than the wholesale price will lose customers to other gas stations. Because of this, most gas stations sell higher-margin food products inside their convenience stores.

During holiday weekends, when American road travel is at its peak, gas prices tend to soar and then drop again as the holidays come to a close; this is due to a fluctuation in demand. Boycotts against individual gas stations to protest against perceived high gas prices have largely failed.

Even with oil market fluctuations, prices for gasoline in the United States are among the lowest in the industrialized world; this is principally due to a difference in taxes. While the price of gasoline in Europe is more than twice that in the United States, the price of gas excluding taxes is nearly identical in the two areas. Some Canadians and Mexicans, close to the U.S. border, drive into the United States to purchase cheaper gasoline at gas stations in border communities.

Due to heavy fluctuations of gas price in the United States, some gas stations offered their customers the option to buy and store gas for future uses, such as like the service provided by First Fuel Bank.

In order to save money, some consumers in the United States and Canada inform each other about low and high prices through the use of gasoline price websites. Such websites allow users to share prices advertised at filling stations with each other by posting them to a central server. Consumers then may check the prices listed in their geographic area in order to select the station with the lowest price available at the time.

Petrol prices in Europe

  In European Union (EU) member states, gas prices are much higher than in North America due to higher fuel excise or taxation, although the base price is also higher than in the U.S. The high fuel prices are unpopular (particularly after inflationary or retail increases), and have led to harsh criticism of taxation policy from some quarters. Occasionally, there are national protests, although in the UK a large-scale protest in the summer of 2000, known as 'The Fuel Crisis', caused wide-scale havoc not only across the UK, but also in some other EU countries. The British government eventually backed down by indefinitely postponing a planned increase in fuel duty. This was partially reversed during December 2006 when Gordon Brown (UK Chancellor of the Exchequer) raised the fuel duty by 1.25 pence per litre.

Petrol prices elsewhere

  In other energy-importing countries like Japan, petrol costs are higher than in the United States because of fuel transportation costs or taxes. On the other hand, some of the major oil-producing countries such as the Gulf States, Iran, Iraq, and Venezuela provide subsidized petrol at well below market prices. This practice tends to encourage heavy consumption. Hong Kong has some of the highest pump prices in the world, but most customers are given significant discounts as card members.

Service stations

  In the U.S., a filling station that also offers services such as oil changes and mechanical repairs to automobiles is called a service station. Until the 1970s, the vast majority of gas stations were service stations; now only a minority are. This kind of business provided the name for the U.S. comic strip Gasoline Alley, where a number of the characters worked.

In the UK, a 'service station' refers to much larger facilities, usually attached to motorways (see Motorway service area (UK)) or major trunk routes, which provide food outlets, large parking areas, and often other services such as hotels, arcade games, and shops in addition to 24-hour fuel supplies and a higher standard of restrooms (UK: toilets). Fuel is typically more expensive from these outlets due to their premium locations. UK service stations do not usually repair automobiles.

In New Zealand, a filling station is often referred to as a service station, garage, or petrol station, even though the filling station may not offer mechanical repairs or assistance with dispensing fuel. Various levels of services are available in New Zealand, including full service, for which assistance in dispensing fuel is offered, as well as offers to check tyre pressure or clean vehicle windscreens. This type of service is becoming uncommon in New Zealand. There is also help service or assisted service, for which customers must request assistance before it is given, and self service, for which no assistance is available.

In the U.S., this arrangement occurs on many toll roads and some interstate freeways and is called an oasis, service plaza, or truck stop. In many cases, these centers might have a food court or cafeteria. In the U.S., Flying J and TA TravelCenters of America are two of the most common full-service chains.[citation needed]

Often, the state government maintains public rest areas directly connected to freeways, but does not rent out space to private businesses. As a result, such areas often provide only minimal services such as restrooms and vending machines.

In turn, private entrepreneurs develop additional facilities, such as restaurants, gas stations, and motels in clusters on private land adjacent to major interchanges. Because these facilities are not directly connected to the freeway, they usually have huge signs on poles several hundred feet high. This way, travelers will be able to spot them several minutes in advance and exit accordingly. Sometimes, the state will also post small official signs (normally blue) indicating what types of gas stations, restaurants, and/or hotels are available at an upcoming exit; businesses may add their logos to these signs for a fee.


Main article: Octane rating

In the United States, all motor vehicle gasoline is unleaded and is available in several grades, which are differentiated by octane rating: 87 (Regular), 89 (Mid-Grade), and 93 (Premium) are typical grades[5]. Minimum octane levels are often lower in the Mountain States, where regular unleaded can be rated as low as 85 octane.

Fuels in the U.S. are described in terms of their "pump octane", which is the average of their "RON" (Research Octane Number) and "MON" (Motor Octane Number). Labels on gasoline pumps in the U.S. typically describe this as the "(R+M)/2 Method".

Some nations describe fuels according to the traditional RON or MON ratings, so octane ratings cannot always be compared with the equivalent U.S. rating by the "(R+M)/2 method".

In Canada, the most commonly found octane grade is 87 (regular), 89 (mid grade) and 91 (Premium).

In Europe, petrol is unleaded and available in 95 (Eurosuper) and 98 (Super Plus) octanes; in some countries, 91 octane petrol is offered as well. Some stations offer 98 RON with lead substitute.

In the UK, leaded 99/100 RON petrol is available through the independent oil company Bayford Thrust (also the UK licensees of the famous Gulf Oil brand) and Greenenergy-supplied Tesco services. A special 102-octane fuel (BP Ultimate 102) is available in the UK at a limited number of stations, for racers and car enthusiasts.

In Australia, petrol is unleaded, and available in 91, 95, 98 and 100 Octanes (names of various petrols differ from brand to brand), fuel additives for use in leaded cars are available at most petrol stations.

In New Zealand, gasoline is most commonly available in unleaded 91 and 95 octane levels. 98 octane is also available, and branded as Ultimate at BP service stations, and as Synergy 8000 at Mobil service stations. 96 octane was abolished in 2006.

Differences in fuel dispensers

Main article: Gas pump

In Europe, the customer selects one of several colour-coded nozzles depending on the type of fuel required. The filler pipe of unleaded fuel is smaller than the one for leaded (substitute) ones. The tank filler opening has a corresponding diameter. This is to prevent filling the tank with the wrong fuel. Leaded fuel damages the catalytic converter. In some European countries, leaded fuel is no longer generally available, or LRP (lead replacement petrol) may be the only such fuel available.

In most stations in the USA and Canada, the pump often has a single nozzle and the customer selects the desired octane grade by pushing a button. Some pumps require the customer to pick up the nozzle first, then lift a lever underneath it. Others are designed so that lifting the nozzle automatically releases a switch. Some older stations still have separate nozzles for different types of fuel. Where diesel fuel is provided, it is usually dispensed from a separate nozzle even if the various grades of gasoline share the same nozzle.

European motorists occasionally pump petrol into a diesel car by accident. The converse is almost impossible because diesel pumps have a large nozzle (15/16 inches) which does not fit the (13/16 inches) filler. However, it is possible and does happen occasionally. Diesel in a petrol engine however — while creating large amounts of smoke — does not normally cause permanent damage if it is drained once the mistake is realised. Even a litre of petrol added to the tank of a modern diesel car can cause irreversible damage to the injection pump and other components through a lack of lubrication. In some cases, the car has to be scrapped because the cost of repairs exceeds its value. The issue is not clear-cut as older diesels using completely mechanical injection can tolerate some gasoline — which has historically been used to "thin" diesel fuel in winter.

Risk of accidental ignition


It is prohibited to use open flames and, in some places, mobile phones on the forecourt of a gas station because of the risk of igniting gasoline vapor.

Automobiles can build up static charges by driving on dry pavements. However tire compounds contain enough carbon black to provide an electrical ground and thus are safer. A driver who does not discharge static by contacting a conductive part of the automobile will carry it to the insulated handle of the nozzle and the static potential will eventually be discharged when this purposely grounded arrangement is put into contact with the metallic filler neck of the vehicle. Ordinarily, vapor concentrations in the area of this filling operation are below the lower explosive limit (LEL) of the product being dispensed, so the static discharge causes no problem. The problem with ungrounded gas cans results from a combination of vehicular static charge, the potential between the container and the vehicle, and the loose fit between the grounded nozzle and the gas can. This last condition causes a rich vapor concentration in the ullage (the unfilled volume) of the gas can, and a discharge from the can to the grounded hanging hardware (the nozzle, hose, swivels and break-a-ways) can thus occur at a most inopportune point.

Although urban legends persist that a faulty mobile phone can cause sparks or a build-up of static electricity in the user, this has not been duplicated under any controlled condition. Nevertheless, super-cautious mobile phone manufacturers and gas stations ask users to switch off their phones. One suggested origin of this myth is that the scare was started by gas station companies themselves because with some older model fuel pumps the cell phone signal would interfere with the fuel counter causing it to give a lower reading, and thus users could get some gas for free. One is more likely to get a spark from wearing nylon clothing than from a mobile phone, to say nothing of the sparks that can occur in faulty car wiring or troubled starting and ignition systems. Fortunately, most fueling is done in the open air, and there is not often an explosive concentration of vapors present. An episode of the popular television show MythBusters debunked the myth that static electricity from a cellular phone is sufficient to ignite nearby gasoline vapors.[6]

The National Fire Protection Association does most of the research and code writing to address the potential for explosions of gasoline vapor. The customer fueling area, up to 18 inches above the surface, normally does not have explosive concentrations of vapors, but may from time to time. Above this height, where most fuel filler necks are located, there is no expectation of an explosive concentration of gasoline vapor in normal operating conditions.

See also


  1. ^ Fuel Taxes; a State-by-State Comparison (PDF). Washington State Department of Transportation. Retrieved on 2007-10-01.
  2. ^

John A. Jakle, Keith A. Sculle. The Gas Station in America (Creating the North American Landscape). Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1994. ISBN-10: 0801847230.

Daniel I. Vieyra. "Fill ’Er Up": An Architectural History of America’s Gas Stations. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1979. ISBN-10: 0026220008.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Filling_station". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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